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[Magical Play]
AKA: 魔法遊戯 飛び出す!! ハナマル大冒険, Mahou Yuugi Tobidasu! Hanamaru Daibouken, Mahou Yuugi 2D, Magical Witchland
Genre: Magical girl comedy (or so it claims)
Length: Television series, 22 episodes, 6 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks.
Content Rating: 16+ (language, fan service, violence, pointless torture of a fish)
Related Series: Magical Play OAV
Also Recommended: Magical Project S, Azumanga Daioh, .hack//Legend of the Twilight
Notes: Originally started off as a thirty-minute OAV online (which is not covered in this review). A TV series was later made, consisting of 6 minute episodes that were originally released online in 2001-2002 after the OAV was finished. The episodes and OAV were free to watch for a limited amount of time on the Internet, then they were taken offline.

Also, the character designs of both the OAV and TV series were done by Kiyohiko Azuma, the creator of Azumanga Daioh.
Rating: One Star

Magical Play

Synopsis

In some strange world where magical girls wear animals for clothing, Padudu is a little girl who's goal is to become a magical girl, which will allow her to live in the life of luxury. To do this, she must battle against other magical girls in combat, so she collect stamps on a little piece of paper. Once it's filled with stickers, she'll become Queen ... or something. Along the way, she meets other magical girls, all but one who are as brain-dead and annoying as she is.


Review

I was really looking forward to Magical Play. I saw snips of it when it was still online years ago, thinking the show looked cute. Fast forward to 2004. The Anime Network where I live finally got Magical Play on their lineup. Excited, I pushed "play" on the remote, went through 2 minutes of anime advertisements, and then the cute, happy opening song. This will be a fun magical girl show, right?

The answer, of course, is a resounding "no".

There are so many problems with Magical Play that it's hard to tell where to begin. So let's start with the number one problem this series has: a completely unlikable cast of characters.

Let's start with Padudu, the supposed main lead of the series (not like you can tell with all the jumping around in this series). She's typically a mindless little girl who eats her own fish costume for food, which stops being remotely funny the first time she does it. She also has a "never give up attitude" attitude (sound familiar?), which is shoved down our throats in nearly ever episode she's seen.

Of course, every magical girl needs a rival, and we have one in Pipin (who's dressed as a Playboy bunny for some reason, and has a rabbit on her backpack). Instead of being amusing, though, she just yells at Padudu all the time, saying such things as, "You're my rival. I will kick ur az111!!1!" and the like. Compare this to Magical Project S's Pixy Misa, who dishes out hilarious Engrish and weird name-callings.

We also have MyuMyu, a dark-skinned girl whose sole notable featureis that she wears cats for bras. And no, I'm not making this up. They come off quite easily, much to the delight(?) to those who like that kind of thing (my mother didn't when she walked into the room one day as I watched it, forcing me to turn off the show right then and there. Thank heaven for mothers). She's also a cocky, manipulative bitch who lies countless times to Padudu to make her feel bad for her. And Padudu, having the brain of a rock (as does everyone else), believes her lies.

There's also the current queen of the land, the selfish, mean Purilin and her creepy, idiotic male assistant, the masochistic Zucchini. If there was any thread of this show being suitable for children, he destroys it, whether its his constantly either spewing out blood from his nose, or bashing his head against a rock for failing his queen, or for just being a horny little bastard in general. In addition he likes MyuMyu, which is used as little more than an excuse to see her lose her clothes yet again.

We also have two female police officers named Ketchup and Mustard, who are retreads of AIC's own Kiyone and Mihoshi from Tenchi Muyo!. Except, well, not funny. At all. That is, unless you thought Mihoshi acting like a clueless moron for the 90th time was funny in either the Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki OAVs or the numerous TV series that followed it. Then you'll consider the segments with Mustard and Ketchup to be "comedy gold".

The only decent character out of the whole bunch of idiots is Nonononn, a soft-spoken renegade magical girl who used to be friends with Purilin. And yet, despite being both cool AND not a jerk, she cannot save this show. Unfortunately we never really find out why she's considered a renegade, but Magical Play has hard enough time being coherent to begin with within the same episode from beginning to end, so maybe that's for the better.

And what goes with an anime with bad characters? Typically bad writing, of course. Making out the ongoing plot of Magical Play is as hard as it was in CardCaptors, and is even more random about it. Except for the first two episodes, there doesn't seem to be any sense of continuation. Characters separate one episode and appear all together in the next, a different character is focused every other episode (Padudu's the main character, then MyuMu, then Nonononn), side stories are obtrusive and interrupt what very little flow the series has, and plot points are brought up and then forgotten. I can name at least three instances where an episode just ends, and either doesn't get concluded for several episodes, or doesn't get concluded at all. By the time the series finally gets its act together, it ends. By this point it was cancelled, and the story was never truly concluded. Can't say I blame them for pulling the plug..

Even with its terrible written characters, Magical Play's biggest weakness in the writing department is that it doesn't know whether it wants to be a plotless comedy or a magical girl series with an ongoing story line. If it's trying to be plotless like Azumanga Daioh, then they should've made the characters more fun and the series actually funny. If they wanted it to have a ongoing storyline, then they failed because you can't tell what's going on. Flipping randomly through the episodes on your DVD player gives you the same results as watching the episodes in order.

Not even the animation and art are impressive. The character designs from Kiyohiko Azuma are just palette/hair swaps of his other characters. The animation lingers between "good" and "barely passable", the frame rate is steady but mediocre, and the backgrounds are colorful and un-detailed. And the costumes for the characters are tacky, the worst offenders including a fish suit, a guy who wears a giant sunflower around his neck and, of course, the girl who wears CATS for clothes! Pretty Sammy and Nurse Witch Komugi look refined compared to the main characters of Magical Play. There's also random usage of 3-D every now and again (much like the Kirby anime), with it only adding to the mood once in a blue moon.

Audio-wise, Magical Play doesn't hold up well, either. The series is filled with what sounds like three music tracks, and the sound effects are the typical ones you've heard many times before. I never listened to the original Japanese version, but the dub is horrific. Nearly every character suffers from bad acting, with voices so mismatched you'd think they were picked out of a hat. This is bad even for ADV's Monster Island recording studio.

Magical Play is a frustrating experience. It feels like it was just made to make money instead of for fun, and relying on the name of a famous mangaka to do so. Although the last few episodes of the series are MUCH better than the early ones (I'd even say they're *good*), and a few jokes from a randomly popping up announcer are amusing, the majority of the series is boring, stupid, and unfunny. And with no conclusion and no resolution, you'll feel cheated out of your time by the end. And unless you really like magical girl anime, or you want to see the low point of Kiyohiko Azuma's career, stay far away from Magical Play.

Don't bother. Just don't. Tim Jones

Recommended Audience: It looks like a children's show, but don't fall into that method of thinking. This series contains quite a bit of fan service and violence (like Padudu eating/torturing her fish costume, who's a LIVE fish, or Zucchini bashing his head until blood comes out of it), as well as some rough language. For teens and up only.



Version(s) Viewed: US broadcast, English dub
Review Status: Full (22/22)
Magical Play © 2001 AIC / Magicaland Magic Union
 
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